Plastics have played a significant role in transforming the lives of human beings in form of societal benefits and medical advances. By 2010, use of plastics was approximated to be at least 300 million tones (Hopewell, Dvorak & Kosior, 2009). Plastics can greatly contribute to the society based on the technological advancements. These materials have the potential of increasing scientific and medical advances, reduce suffering and assist in reducing human environmental footprint on planet earth. In the recent past, plastics have been used to increase the function of medical applications such as tissue and organ transplants, lightweight components like those in Boeing 787, and reduce the elements required in the production of renewable energy and insulation to minimize carbon emissions.
Regardless of its benefits, there has been a growing concern over its application and disposal, which has resulted to accumulation of landfills and natural habitats, thus negatively affecting the environment. Besides this, leaching of chemicals from plastic products and the potential for plastics to share the chemicals from plastics to human has caused greater threat to future generations (Hopewell, Dvorak & Kosior, 2009). These aspects depict a picture of the developing environmental hazards and human health effects with innumerable uncertainties and concerns. In addition to this, the present usage is unsustainable with at least 4% of the world oil used in its production, yet the major plastic production is used for packaging and then discarded. Given the reducing fossil fuel reserves and the linear use of hydrocarbons, it is necessary to have a lasting solution of meeting the demand for the plastics and still maintain the environment. This study proposes to the chemical company to integrate the utilization of green chemistry as an approach to modify the production processes of plastics as the main product for the company. The company’s main products have been production of plastics for packages of industrial goods. Plastics are economical, lightweight, strong, and durable materials with high thermal and insulation properties that can be useful for medical and technological advances. Green chemistry involved chemical engineering in the design, development, and implementation of the chemical processes and products to reduce hazardous substances to human beings and health (Hopewell, Dvorak & Kosior, 2009). Application of green chemistry to management of plastics is based on the principles that:
- It is easier to prevent wastes than to clean up the wastes after formation
- Artificial approaches capitalize on the integration of the materials in the production processes
- Man-made approaches should be designed to produce products with minimal toxicity to human and to environment
- The products should be designed to preserve efficacy of the products while at the same time reduce toxicity
Previously plastics have been managed through recycling of the plastic materials, reuse of the products, reduction of the production of new plastic products in addition to application of energy recovery, and molecular redesign in the management of the plastic products. The first four approaches have been useful in managing the negative effects related to plastics. However, the present need for plastics calls for higher production, whereas the required level for fossil fuel that is necessary for the energy production is decreasing. In recycling, only a small percentage of less than 7% has been conducted, since it has overwhelming to recycle an entire shopping basket for packaging. Molecular redesign is a new trend that is emerging in green chemistry. It has been incorporated within the design and life cycle to produce plastic products that are less toxic to humanity and to the environment. Application of green chemistry is an advanced technology that aims at reducing usage and production of hazardous substances by redesigning better manufacturing processes for the chemical products.
Total elimination of plastic products may be challenging for both the company and the consumers, in light of associated benefits of plastics. To maintain the relevance of plastics, while at the same time reduce its hazardous effect, it is necessary to embrace the green chemistry. Green chemistry is an approach, which incorporates advanced technology that reduces the hazardous elements of the chemical composition in plastics, thereby protecting the environment as well as human health (Thompson, Moore, Vom Saal, & Swan, 2009). The major focus of green chemistry is for sustainable development and production that meets the present needs without compromising the ability of the future generations to met their demands. This approach is based on some principles including the principle that encourages use of a new catalyst that can reduce the operating temperature and pressure for the process. This will in return imply that less energy can be consumed both for the good of the company and the environment.
The company will be set to reduce as minimal wastes as possible through reaction choice, process design, and recycling. To achieve this limit, the company will apply chemical reactions and processes that are most effective in using available resources and produce minimal waste materials. To measure efficacy, the company will calculate yield that will compare expected product quantity and the actual amount of amount obtained. Alternatively, the company may apply the concept of atom economy in the production of the less hazardous chemical synthesis in the family of polycarbonates with high optical properties and required energy (Thompson, Moore, Vom Saal, & Swan, 2009). These developed polymers through this approach are less flammable and toxic. Other than the mentioned benefits, these chemicals bear the ability of maintaining their properties such as toughness that enables the materials absorb severe effects without cracking. They are besides safe for the environment and can be spread on soil, water, and air ingested by people. An example of such chemicals is zeolites and pyrethoid pesticides that bear the dual benefits of breaking down sunlight and lower toxicity in humans than pesticides based on chlorine.
The company ought to exploit green chemical due to uncountable benefits associated with its application. Besides these, the processes are energy efficient and recycle waste materials. This approach is part of the pre-conceived idea of where chemistry is heading as its application goes beyond applied chemical industries such electronics and pharmaceuticals.
Implementing green chemistry may take long to effect since; very few companies have acknowledged its benefits due to limited knowledge on its applicability. Besides, this it is necessary to make public the change of chemicals use for the generation of the product including related permission from the authorities. The company needs to inform the overhead ministry of its change of production materials, and processes, as well as its associated objective. After acquiring permission to proceed with the procedure, the company through its logistics department will have to outsource for materials, and consistent suppliers of the raw products. These two processes may take up to 12 months, although applicability of the entire process may take longer approximately five years.
The solution is cost effective as much of the raw materials will be recycled from the products. In addition, since the company is focused at producing packaging plastics, it is easier to break down the plastic polymer chains into smaller molecules to recombine and produce new products. This is made much easier by the recent discovery of the Òinspired molecule (Recygal, 2011). Other areas such as work distribution and efficiency will remain constant. Since most government advocate for environmental protection, the processes taken to acquire legal permission will be minimal.
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